Fresh violence in Afghanistan over Koran burning


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The Independent Online

Protesters angry over the burning of the Koran by American troops lobbed grenades at a US base in northern Afghanistan and clashed with police and troops in a day of violence that left seven international soldiers injured and two Afghans dead.

The attacks were the latest in six days of violence across the country by Afghans furious at the way some Korans at an American base outside of Kabul were disposed of in a burn pit.

The incident has swiftly spiralled out of control, leaving dozens of people dead, including four US troops killed by their Afghan counterparts, in a sign of the tenuous nature of the relationship between Afghanistan and the US.

Afghan authorities have launched a manhunt across the country for a driver they suspect in the killing of two US military advisers who were shot dead at an Afghan ministry yesterday. International advisers working at Afghan ministries were recalled out of fears of another attack.

In Kunduz province today, thousands of demonstrators started out protesting peacefully but then the group turned violent as they tried to enter the district's largest city, said Amanuddin Quriashi, district administrator. People in the crowd fired on police and threw grenades at a US base on the city's outskirts, he said.

Seven Nato troops were wounded and one of the protesters was killed when troops fired out from the US base, Mr Quriashi said. Another demonstrator was killed by Afghan police, he added. Provincial police spokesman Sarwar Hussaini confirmed the casualties.

A Nato spokesman said an explosion occurred outside the base, but the grenades did not breach its defences.

"Initial reports indicate that there were no ISAF service member fatalities," said Navy Lt Cmdr Brian Badura, referring to Nato's International Security Assistance Force. He declined to comment on whether there were any injured.

More than 30 people have been killed in clashes since it emerged last Tuesday that copies of the Muslim holy book and other religious materials had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn rubbish at Bagram Air Field, a large US base north of Kabul.

The death toll from days of unrest includes four US soldiers - two killed last week by an Afghan soldier, and the two military advisers shot yesterday at the Interior Ministry.

Nato and the British Government recalled their international advisers from Afghan ministries in the capital late yesterday after the two advisers - a lieutenant colonel and a major - were found dead in their office, shot in the back of the head. The names of the victims have not been released.